|Banks County Opinions...||
September 5, 2001
By Jo Evelyn Dean
The Banks County News
September 5, 2001
The truth about being lactose intolerant
Lactose intolerance is a condition where a person develops symptoms of cramps, diarrhea, nausea, gas and bloating after consuming lactose, the sugar found in milk. It occurs when a person does not have enough lactase, the enzyme in the intestine which helps digest lactose.
Many people have low levels of lactase, but not everyone has symptoms of lactose intolerance. People from certain ethnic groups tend to produce less lactase after weaning. Lactose intolerance is common in Asian-Americans, Jews, Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans.
Does a low lactase level mean one cannot have any foods containing lactose? No, many people who have low lactase levels can consume some lactose-containing foods. They may just have to eat them carefully. Also, many people think they are lactose intolerant when really they are sensitive to something else. Only a special test, called a breath hydrogen test, can tell for sure.
Many people with lactose intolerance can drink up to two cups of milk served with meals. This amount may need to be divided into servings of one cup or less. Adding chocolate seems to improve tolerance. One may also handle whole milk better than skim or low-fat milk. Most people can eat aged cheeses like cheddar, Swiss and mozarella. Even cottage cheese may be tolerated well.
Plain yogurt with live yogurt cultures also is well-tolerated. Yogurt with added fruit, flavors and sweeteners may not be digested as well. Frozen yogurt and ice cream usually are not tolerated as well as cheese and refrigerated yogurt.
Is lactose in other foods besides dairy products? Yes, many processed foods contain lactose. Read the labels for the following ingredients: lactose, whey, buttermilk, cream, milk solids, curds, milk, margarine or butter, sour cream, or non-fat dry milk powder. One's ability to digest these ingredients may vary from food to food.
If no milk products can be consumed at all, then a person must be sure to get calcium from some other source. Dairy foods are the best source of calcium. Even if one can handle some milk, they may not get all the calcium they need. Calcium supplements and other foods containing calcium must be eaten.
Besides dairy foods, these foods contain calcium: sardines, 3 ounces, 371 milligrams; molasses, 2 tablespoons, 274 mg; tofu, processed with calcium, 3 ounces, 225 mg; collard greens, 1 cup cooked, 148-357 mg; turnip greens, 1 cup cooked, 194-249 mg; kale, 1 cup cooked, 94-179 mg; salmon with bones, 3 ounces, 167 mg; Chinese cabbage, 1 cup cooked, 158 mg; shrimp, 3 ounces, 98 mg; dried beans, 1/2 cup cooked, 24-45 mg.
You can buy milk products treated with lactase to reduce lactose content. You can also buy lactase tablets or drops to treat regular milk. Some people use soy infant formula or soy milk fortified with calcium. The calcium content of soy milk can vary a lot, so check the nutrition label carefully.
Calcium supplements are absorbed better in doses of 500 milligrams or less. You may also need a Vitamin D supplement along with the calcium. Most of the time, symptoms of lactose intolerance are mild. If you have more severe symptoms, you may have a more serious problem. See your doctor if you have any problems with serious cramping, gas, diarrhea or nausea.
Jo Evelyn Dean is a county extension agent serving Jackson and Banks counties.
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